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Mark Keleher: Good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining Gray's monthly.
All the trends we will reveal this afternoon are derived from our program evaluation system. This system supports academic review processes at colleges and universities across the country. Before we introduce our partner this afternoon and pass over the time to our CEO Bob Atkins, a couple of quick housekeeping items. Please feel free to share any questions with us in the chat window on the left hand side of the page. We will be sure to answer all questions at the end of today’s webcam. A copy of the presentation as well as a recording will be delivered to all registrants via email. Without further ado, Carol?
Carol Aslanian: Yes I’m here.
Mark Keleher: If you could introduce yourself, that'd be great.
Carol Aslanian: Great. Good afternoon or good morning everyone. I’m Carol Aslanian and I probably know many of you in the audience as I see the colleges are very familiar. I’ve been in this market place for higher education for more than 30 years and my subject matter has always been the returning post traditional adult student and on average we do about 20 or 30 studies a year to help colleges grow their enrolments with this virgining population, and I’ll tell you more about that as I get to my end of this presentation. Thank you.
Who is Gray?
Bob Atkins : Good afternoon. This is Bob Atkins. I’m the CEO and Founder of Gray Associates. I thank all of you for joining us today and without further ado, let’s get started. For those of you who don’t know Gray. We’re a strategy consulting firm focusing exclusively on higher education. We built our practice around essentially a big data mass shop that combines information on student demands and employment competition, wages, demographics, placement rates, employer requirements and God knows what else.
And we use that data to help clients decide what academic programs to start-stop, sustain or grow. Turns out it’s also very helpful in picking locations for campuses, picking what markets to focus on for online programs, some of it relates to pricing and then finally we use it off and on across a wide variety of projects including general strategy for higher education institutions. Today we're going to focus on the information on student demand. So let’s dive into.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
We'll start at a national level.
Overall Student Inquiries (All Sources)
We actually track a couple or sources of demand information, three really. One is completion to adjust state updates which only updates once a year, but we also track more current information coming from Google, their search volumes and inquiries. And let’s take a look here at the Google search volumes which we now have going back to 2016.
Google Search Trends: Programs
First, quickly just how to read the chart. The dark blue in the background is 2016, the green is 2017 and the red bar is 2018. So if one bar is higher than another that means that year was bigger than the subsequent year. And what we can see on the chart is there’s been a general downward trend since 2016 in the demand for higher education. More specifically as we look at search volumes in Google, they’ve been down four percent on average over the last six months.
Last month in June specifically, search volumes fell three percent. Now for those of you who pay attention to data, your question might be, well search for what? And what this is, is search for the 200 largest academic programs, and that they comprise some 67% of all completions that I’ve had. So if the majority but not every single program that we keep track of and for each of these we track 25 keywords.
Google Search Trends: Brands
So looking a little bit further on in this, the other way people search when they not searching for a particular program, is to search for a school brand name. So we keep track of that as well. We're keeping track at the moment in our data set of 75 higher education brands with a handful of related keywords for each one. In this case Google search declined by about five percent which is about in line for the average for year to date. So both views of Google data are down 3% to 5%.
Overall Student Inquiries (All Sources)
Carol Aslanian: Bob, it’s Carol. Could I ask for clarification there?
Bob Atkins: Sure.
Carol Aslanian: Do you think that's due to the idea that we’ve got a little bit of stabilisation or decline in the traditional age population? The graduates from high school.
Bob Atkins: Well you know Carol, it’s funny. You know, I think what’s going on underneath this is. Well first of all I should be careful. We know what happened but the data doesn’t really tell us why it happened.
Carol Aslanian: Yeah.
Bob Atkins: I think in general there is a decline in enrolment and a decline in interest. Probably the biggest single driver is the economy and that’s taken people back, you know, that would’ve, might’ve gone to school and getting them a job. And the split between traditional and non-traditional, I do think that the adult segment is going up while the traditional student segment is going down, and --
Carol Aslanian: Right.
Bob Atkins: And the decline in the traditional basis large enough to offset the gains from the non-traditional student. One funny thing about those terms. I was looking back at the data and that non-traditional student is not so non-traditional anymore. They’ve been, I think its 40% of graduates for the last ten years. So for those of you who aren’t lasered in on the adult learner, it's time.
Carol Aslanian: Right. Absolutely, and I’ll get into that later.
Bob Atkins: All right. So national increase across all programs. This is a different data set, now we’ve left Google and were looking at a data set that comes from aggregators and agencies across the internet. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that channel. If you went online now and said look I want to become a nurse. The first thing you’d see are several advertisements in Google for real life nursing schools and then you’d probably see one in that mix that says "Learn All About Nursing" or "Explore A Career In Nursing." If you clicked on that the site would ask you for your name, address, phone number, what program you’re interest in and what degree level, perhaps even your blood type and the name of your next of kin as well. We actually gather that data. We gather some of that data from them, none of the personal data, but we as they tell us the data that tells us where the inquiry came from, what degree level the student was interested in, what particular program they were interested in, their background status and a couple of other things. Oh, and whether they wanted it online or on ground.
So that allows us to tease out demand at a very granular level right down to the census tracked by all 14 hundred IPEX programs, and that data’s going to be tied for some time so its good historical time series. As you can see here, the blue bars in the background are higher than all the other bars, as in demand has been going down for several years. The green bars are trading places now, back and forth a little bit, this year with the red bars and in fact it’s been up slightly several months this year for the first time in a long time, and this month that continued with a one percent increase. So the volume of people inquiring is actually up a little bit and we're gonna take that apart because of increase, not a student.
Inquiry to Application: Overall Conversion Rates
So let’s move a little bit further down the pipeline here and say, what’s actually going on in terms of the number of inquiries that are turning into something later in the said admissions file. That number, that conversion rate has been going up for some time and peaked at 54% over our baseline number from Q14 in Q3 2017. It’s dropped back down; Q4 is 29% over the baseline and Q1 2018 slightly below that. What’s worrisome here, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Euro decline in several years, so we're actually in Q1 down some seven percent year over year. We're still beating that index but down every year.
Overall Student Inquiry Conversions: (All Sources)
Now of course, would you have marginal increases in demand and declining conversions, but it’s not good for the total number of conversions and here you can see that the unit conversions have declined January, February and March. So fewer things are flowing through into the admissions process. On the other hand we look at April, May and June. These are what we call immature months. We're getting close. Now if we take a moment just to explain what an immature month is. We count conversions in the month in which the inquiry took place. So somebody inquires in January and decides to apply in April, we would count them as a January conversion. They convert in the month in which the inquiry was received.
So if you might imagine, it takes a few months for, let’s say the month of April, to mature for all the people who inquired to take the subsequent action and convert. And given the historical trends on this, I would guess that April number will continue to go up and probably beat last year. May and June are also in good positions. June exceptionally good position to beat last year. It almost certainly will, given where it started out. So, the conversions look relatively good in the last quarter compared to the first quarter.
Average Price for Pay-per Inquiry
Now let’s talk about price. What do people have to pay for an inquiry? This is a good indicator of the level of competitiveness in the market. How many people are actually bidding for these terms and needs and what we see here is an increase year over year of almost seven percent in the Price per Inquiry paid by schools. So these past two months are the first months we’ve ever seen where the price is over $48. In fact, it cleared $49 last month, so yeah, a pretty steep increase actually in your year pricing score or paid increase.
Student Inquiries: Budget Spending for 10 Largest Programs
Now you might ask, well what kinds of programs are people paying for inquiries in and so we took a look at the budget trends. That is the number of increase times the price of per enquiry for all our programs. Excuse me for the top 10 programs, The ones with the highest search volumes and what we found was that number one on this list was like Psychology, up almost 33%, CJ up 14%, Health care up nine percent and Business Administration and Management up six percent. And then a series or more technical programs, technician programs, fell lower than that. At HVAC Medical Insurance, Medical Clinical Assistant, Medical office, and then we have a couple of others, Registered Nursing and Accounting, both down fairly significantly in terms of purchased increase year over year.
Inquiries for Online Programs
Let’s take a look at this and split it between online and on ground. And I’m sure most of you can guess what the story is. Increase for online or off, in fact, they’re up fairly significantly, eight percent in June and they have been up five of the last six months. So a pretty persistent trend now in growth in online increase. On the other --
Heat Map of Online Year- over- Year Inquiries
Carol Aslanian: Right. And you know what Bob? A good explanation for that is many, many more traditional age students are entering the online marketplace and increasing that volume sector.
Bob Atkins: Yeah and I think the non-traditionals are in there almost entirely
Carol Aslanian: Right. But we have a non-traditional or traditionals in there too.
Bob Atkins: Exactly. So as you look at what’s going on in year to year increase, what we see is that the growth is happening in more rural states towards the centre of the country. You can see the dark blue pattern here down the middle of the United States, and I think it’s Delaware there that we picked up on the East Coast as well, which it’s pretty much flattened down every place else.
Inquiries for On-Campus Programs
Now let’s think about what’s going on in the On-Campus world. As you might imagine if we're overall flat and online is up, then something must have gone down and that something was on campus. Inquiries and they were down big, 18% year over year in June, so we're seeing a sharp decline in interest for pure on campus programs.
Student Demand Trends: Inquiries, Conversions and Searches
Carol Aslanian: Yes, and that has a lot to do with the incoming traditional quote unquote population, which is now demographically much more complex with many first generation and minority students, and they’re just studying in different ways to cope with you know multiple life roles. So they’re acting more like adults than quote unquote children.
Bob Atkins: Yeah, well, and there are just plain fewer of them too. That population is growing very, very slowly or down in many parts of the United States.
Student Inquiries: The Big 5 Cities
So let’s take a look at what’s going on now at a geographically specific level and for some of the larger programs. In the five cities with the most inquiries in our history, since we’ve been keeping it, we’re up in three and down in two. Philadelphia's up eight percent, Chicago’s up five percent, Los Angeles is up, but New York and Houston are down. New York’s actually down again, fairly significantly, six percent. As you can see these are pretty sharp reversals from what was going on last year. All of these cities were down, most of them by double digits last year. So a little bit of a bounce back from the slump we were seeing 12 months ago.
The Big 5 Programs: May Growth Year-over-Year
If we think about the five largest programs, we've got again some pretty interesting changes. Criminal Justice has been a big and popular program for a long time and took a huge hit last month, down 70%. Medical, 15, has been declining in our data for years now, it’s down overall if you look at completions, at least 50% in total completions over the last several years and here we see a bounce back. The inquiries are up 64%, so it looks like there might be a little bit more life in medical assisting right now than there has been, though as long as the economy stays robust, I think the interest in that job is, in that program is going to remain limited but data is starting to say otherwise. And then of course we have Healthcare Administration up 13% and Business Administration continues to be flat to down. Worrisome because it is the biggest program in the United States. Carol?
Carol Aslanian: Pardon me.
Bob Atkins: Oh I just thought you wanted to say something.
Carol Aslanian: No I was going to say it had such a, you know, a burst and romance for so long that we’ve probably saturated the market a bit.
Bob Atkins: Yeah. I think that’s right and I think the perceived value, especially the MBA is somewhat down as well.
Carol Aslanian: That’s right and what we’ve learned from some of our recent surveys is that, in different regions of the country people want more specificity in that MBA. They just don’t want to sit across an employer and say here’s my MBA. They want to know exactly what it is you’re studying. Is it data analysis part of MBA? Are you doing international? Are you doing financial accounting, or what is it? What’s the specificity of their talents?
Bob Atkins: Yeah.
Carol Aslanian: Not just the general.
Bob Atkins: Well, then they’re breaking it down into you know, going and getting just a certification and a sort of feel that they need for their work as opposed to a full-on degree. So all that's chipping away at what is a very, very large program.
Carol Aslanian: Right. Which may lead to a rise in certifications by the way?
The Fast 5 Programs: The Higher Education Programs with the Fastest Inquiry Growth
Bob Atkins: I agree. So if you look at where things are growing. There’s a program called Health Professions and Related Programs, up 128%, Electrical Engineering up big. We’ve seen Engineering on this chart several times in the past. No surprise, Cybersecurity is huge. The only question: is it growing fast enough to stop the Chinese and Russians from stealing all our stuff. Hospitality Administration, interestingly growing here. We'll see some other data on that a little bit later in the presentation and finally, Literal Arts and Sciences going up. Now let’s be clear what that is. That’s not people graduating with a four year degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences or interest in that.
Carol Aslanian: Right.
Bob Atkins: What I think is going on here is people are buying in to community colleges to get their two year degrees so that they can go on and get a four year degree in something more specific. When I’ve looked at this data, it’s been predominant for two years.
Carol Aslanian: It’s the reverse in what we once thought was the two plus two, and now the community colleges are doing the gen eds / humanity / liberal education, and they’re going to the foreign institutions for their career preparations, those last two years.
Bob Atkins: Mm-hmm.
Fastest- Growing Programs
Now it’s interesting in terms of fast growing on Google search. We’ve got a series of very tacky vocational programs. The top two in Cosmetology; the third one there, Medical Rad Tech, Truck and Bus Driver, then we get a Surg Tech and a couple of HVACs, and finally, Health Care Administration Management. So in terms of Google search volume, what people are looking for are very vocationally orientated programs.
Now let’s look at where things are declining in Google. And a couple of themes here. Up first is Education. We’ve got three of the ten factor defining programs in our database of 200 are in education. Teacher Education, Multiple Levels Elementary Education and Education General. So a real hit in terms of interest in general teaching education.
And then the other one that appears twice here actually, is Hotel Motel Administration Management and then Hospitality. So the Hospitality sector seems to be waning in interest out there as well. And then a handful of other things; Chemistry, Criminal Justice, confirming the increased decline, and then the Administrative and Secretarial, also down significantly.
Now have I mentioned that in addition to searching by programs, many students search for a particular college’s brand name? So we began to track that as well. The fastest growing brands that we found; three of them are full profits which is sort of what you’d expect in the sense of people out there, are marketing their brands. UTI is up 20%, the RO Tech Training School, West Coast University, up 16% and Florida Career College up 13%. After that were looking at the public institutions and private institutions predominantly with a heavier online presence. So the top two here from the private sector are Western Tech, they're public actually but non-profit sector. Western Governors, up 16% and SNHU up 10%, both very large online operators. And then we have three more traditional schools here, University Wyoming, University of Oklahoma and Kansas, all up five to 10%.
Carol Aslanian: Bob. Do you think this is related to their marketing budgets, cos later I’m going to show, you know, the different marketing techniques that raise visibility, but another corollary to this is, pretty soon you’re going to begin to see that per due global, because they’re all over the place now. So I wouldn’t be surprised in the next examination that they come right up on this list.
Bob Atkins: Yeah. We, I’m not sure what data set. We're going to have to add them, but I completely agree. I’ve been seeing them on TV as well, so yes.
In fact, much of this is stimulated demand. People may not spontaneously wake up in the morning and search for Florida Career College, but if they see an ad they will.
Carol Aslanian: That’s right.
Bob Atkins: And I’m sure that’s true at a minimum for the profits and probably for most of the rest of the folks on this list as well.
Carol Aslanian: I got an interesting call from a reporter in Southern California the other day. He says we’ve been inundated with ads for per due. He says, "What’s that going to do to our local institutions like Branmin, who also has online?" Big, big question. But they’ve always been there but now they’re not there for profits. There they’re not for profits which have a different appeal.
Bob Atkins: Well, the [20:52] are for profits. When you’re --
Carol Aslanian: You're right.
Bob Atkins: What you find is, when people are operating online, they all behave like for profits.
Carol Aslanian: Right.
Bob Atkins: Yeah. And it’s just a matter of where that money goes.
Carol Aslanian: It’s like a continuing ad. It's a revenue generating item.
Bob Atkins: Exactly. Subsidize the campus and other programs but its operated, the not for profits here operate and use the same tactics by and large, as the for profits. So it’s a brutally competitive space.
Carol Aslanian: Yeah.
Bob Atkins: And actually it’s a real --
Carol Aslanian: and Southern New Hampshire is the best example of that.
Bob Atkins: Yeah and one of the biggest growth areas. The one that is most impressive to me is Western Governors too. I was just looking at them, I think they only have 22 total programs and 10 000 completions a year, which is the most efficient program portfolio I think, we’ve ever seen.
Carol Aslanian: And they’ve turned themselves around dramatically.
Bob Atkins: So it’s a very interesting case study. If any of you haven’t looked at it we'd be glad to discuss it with you.
Healthcare Administration: Program Scorecard
Now let’s keep going and look at one of the programs we just discussed in little bit more depth. Health Care Administration Management. Let's see what’s going.
What we’ve got here is what we call a program score card and I’ll walk you through it fairly quickly. It’s very data dense, that’s intentional. Probably a violation of every rule of presentation there is, but what we’ve tried to do is to get all the important information about our program onto one page. So if you’re making programmatic decisions it’s all there at your fingertips. The send thing we’ve done is color-code it. So at the bottom left corner of the chart you can see a line percentile, and the dark green is the 98th percentile. There are 1400 programs in our systems. So if a program is at the 98th percentile that means it’s one of the 24 best programs, 28 best programs in the system for that particular metric. So if we look at the top here, we’ve got inquiries dark green at 227 thousand and the unit changed 6000, if it’s the 95th percentile. So the input here is telling the system, big program and that it’s growing. Google search also, I believe that it is a 95th percentile, 119 000 and completions are at the 95th percentile. So three of our data sets are telling us that this is a very large program either in the top two percent or top five percent of all programs offered. What they aren’t telling us consistently is growth. We’ve got positive unit change in inquiries, negative unit change in Google search and positive unit change in completions. So this is what I’d be cautious. The tide may be turning. We’ve actually heard from some of our clients that they are beginning to have issues with filling seats in Health Care Administration Management, but you can’t be certain because the data if not in agreement depending on which channel you’re in, you may be seeing growth or decline. But it’s a, as we would look at it, it’s the nature of the beast in the sense that you can’t be certain. There’s a complex market and the data sources are not in agreement right now.
Carol Aslanian: Mm-hmm.
Bob Atkins: Now the next question is, okay it’s big, but you know how competitive is it? And there are 583 schools offering this program. So that is orange, which means it is in the bottom 40% that is the most competitive 40% of all programs. And the year over year change there is 10. So not only are they 583 but people are still jumping into this program. Costs per inquiry, here is 54, that’s not too bad but Google search is very expensive, about 57, bottom 40th percentile of all programs and of course in this case, a higher number puts you in the bottom because we want a lower costs per [24:41], and the competitive index is point 9 and that from Google is a zero to one scale, but one being most competitive, so this is in the top 10% or the very high end of that scale, so it’s an intensely competitive program.
The other thing we track is whether it is on ground or online program. And here you can see there’s some 2802 online institutions offering this program online and 48% of all the institutions offering the program at all, and 61% of all completions. So this is a program that’s flipped and is now predominantly an online program.
Last but not least are the jobs for these folks and I would, what we see is a, yeah, it’s good, 90th percentile in terms of job postings, more towards the average 70th percentile on terms of BLS, total employment and job openings. Wages here, 58 000 is good, at the 70th percentile. So it’s healthy from a job market perspective, not at a 95th percentile but what the student demand was.
And finally you might ask yourself, well what degree do they offer here? And what we see, it’s really two levels, bachelors and graduates. If we look at the natural percentage of workforce, its 64% of all graduates which is going to be in either Bachelors with a graduate program and 90% of all completions are going to occur in those two categories. So you really at one of those two levels or both in terms of what’s appropriate for this particular field.
So to summarize, we’ve got a program with a strong student demand that may be beginning to wane very intense competition and a recently healthy job market for people with a Bachelors or Graduates Degree. So if we stop there and turn it over and give Carol a chance to tell us a little about the non-traditional student and in particular, the graduate segments there.
Who are Post-Traditional Students?
Carol Aslanian: Right. Thank you, Bob. That was very important and informative and a nice underpinning to where I’m going to go. While Bob talked about college goingness among all populations, from traditional to post-traditional and under-graduates and graduates, I thought that one of the things I could do to dig deeper is to share with you two reports we’ve just done. On what we're now focusing a lot of attention on is that post-traditional student which I’m sure the audiences heard, you know, many things about and I just want to show you right now that we do have a couple of reports. The one on the left says Post-Traditional College Students but its focusing on under graduates and Ill define post-traditional in a moment. And the focus on the right, the right report is about graduate students. So here are two separate reports that you can download on our website that will talk about this post-traditional under graduate market separately from the graduate market. And today I want to delve in on that graduate market which many of our customers and our colleges seek to find better information on.
Who are Post-Traditional Graduate Students?
So who are? What do we mean by post-traditional? As we did with our under graduate study, a post-traditional student is a student who is not enrolled in a daytime, fulltime, residential degree program. So we're not studying HVS Harvard day program or any of the residential programs. We're studying anybody who studies but not on a fulltime day basis and residents nearby the college or at the college.
Number two, it's not necessarily [28:27]. In fact, in our office, our staff has stopped using the world adult, because these people can be of any age. Footnote: This is very true of the undergraduate market. Age no longer predicts the way students learn. You can be 19 and need an accelerated program online because you’re working and raising a family. And you can be 53, just lost your job and you have full time capacity, so you study fulltime during the day to get it over with as fast as you can.
The third point is that this is a huge population for you people out there. These post-traditional students and given the fact that we’re losing high school graduation numbers more than we predict, that more than 70% of the graduate market is made up of people like this. It’s not that traditional graduate market. It’s a graduate market made out of people who are in and out, come in with credit, want more credit. They want to study on a fast term basis. They want online, sometimes they want blended and so forth.
National Study Methodology
So let me tell you about these people who we think is the lion share of your graduate market. So what we did was a national study we went to 1500 student nationwide and we have a great partner who knows how to do this with a base, what do you call it? A National Panel of Individuals. We have millions in this panel and we find those who have the following qualifications. They can be any age, but if they are under 25 they can’t be fulltime day and residential. That’s the post traditional screening. Next, they had to have been enrolled in graduate study in the past three years; they’re currently enrolled or plan to enroll in the next 12 months. And when they say plan, we asked them for their college intent and subject interest. And we are studying demand and not need.
We not asking people, what would you like to study someday if you go back to graduate school? No. Demand theory is an important part of Aslanian Market Research. We study the actual customer. We don’t study need, we don’t study soft aspiration. So what I’m going to share with you are actual buyers.
The 70% of the graduate market, who are in the process of buying, have just finished buying or will do it shortly. So let me give you a little bit of their demographics. It’s a 53, we're over 50% women in this post-traditional graduate market place, and that makes a lot of sense. Women have many obligations including work and family and home and so they need the flexibility of what you’ll see is coming around and the terms of courses and programs they can enter. So if you’re marketing., you know its roughly 50 - 50, but then don’t forget that women in years past, was dominated by men but now we have a percentage higher than women, in that portion of the graduate market that makes up 70% of it.
Bob Atkins: You know Carol. This is an area we’ve been focusing on, that I thought you would be interested in. The women have been 57-58% of the scholar’s graduates now for over 10 years.
Carol Aslanian: Right, right.
Bob Atkins: So, here's the very interesting split. We’ve got 50% more women graduating from college every year than men.
Carol Aslanian: Yes. I’ve seen that and especially among the under graduates, but in the graduate market this is a newer trend. Graduate markets have been dominated by men but you could see that changing, when we look at the 70% here. I wonder if we look at the traditional residential graduate student, that 30%, I bet what you’re saying would be true Bob, that we might have more, we’d probably have more men than women in that particular portion. If you look at the age, the median age I figured out, is about 35 which doesn’t change very much in our minds, but if you’re a school that looks to recruit your graduates directly from under-graduates school, it doesn’t seem like that is the mode these days. These are individuals who go out, they work for a while, they maybe get a few credits and then when they find out what they need to move on with their jobs, or change their jobs, then they come back to get what they have to have as a post-traditional student. They’re employed full time, generally. Okay. 70% of this market is working fulltime, so they need a lot of flexibility. They can’t sit in a dorm and study and make classrooms from nine to four. All right.
They’re primarily Caucasian and they’re, half of them are married, but half are not. And of those that are married, of course 60% have children.
Trends – How Far is Their Online Institution
So you can these demographic characteristics in your marketing messages and appealing to those people in your audience that have this kind of character.
Here is the best chart of all. These post-traditional students who we say make up 70% of the graduate market; half of them live within 50 miles of the school in which they are enrolled. Footnote: I brought this chart in and it’s the only one that is like this because we did not ask it in the regular study, but we asked it in our online study. We have an online study we do every year with Learning House. So among online students, cos many of your programs are online at the graduate level, look at this; over half study within 50 miles of where they live. They select an institution that is nearer than farther away and if you add up those first two rows, its 60- 70%. More than 70% are within 100 miles.
So many of you people in the audience have regional markets. When you’re going online, but of course if it’s online like this, guess what? All your ground program people are also closer than farther away. But if you’re moving into that online market of yours, they’re now, most of your marketing dollars should be spent nearer than farther, and your competition is not necessarily the Southern New Hampshire’s or the Western Governors. It’s the school five miles away, 20 miles away. So that’s what, those are the targets for your marketing messages.
Trends - Preferred Course Format
Moving on. What is their preferred course format? Now these are the post-traditional graduate students. And those who want fully classroom courses, about 30%. Those who want fully online, 27%. So you have an equal split here between online and classroom. Those who like hybrid, you know, give me a couple, give me half online and then maybe half hybrid, that means let me come in once a week, that doesn’t mean twice a week or three times a week. It means after I buy some of the time and maybe it’s a weekend immersion, maybe it’s at the beginning of the semester, but the variability here says, you’ve got to have some online, probably classroom is on its way out, fully classroom courses except for the traditional market, but these students, these post traditional graduate students want flexibility, ease. So online programs but also blended. And if you live in a metropolitan area, blended is a great idea.
I just got a call from a school in the region in New York City and they’re coming in from the suburbs to be based in New York City. So the question is: Since they’re closer to where the majority of their pool is working and living, should they offer classroom courses? Believe me. Distance has nothing to do with it. And NYU when they first started online courses, most of their students were within; you know 10 of 15 miles of the institution. So those of you in metropolitan areas, hybrid is a great, great mode to get these post-traditional students into your classrooms.
Full vs Part Time
Next. They can be full time. You know why they’re full time? Because you make it easy for them to be fulltime. You have eight week courses back to back over the course of the year which they absolutely adore and they can be full time. They want to get out as fast as they can. So you know part time program for adult students is an old archaic way to capture these students. You can study full time, work full time and raise your family, and get your degree on a timely basis is what they want to hear.
Trends in Recent/Current Program Formats
Recent trends in course formats. This is like courses not programs, but courses. I’d like all online courses of no business with the campus, 25%. All online with one or more full day, 23%, that’s half, they want a mixture, and well only 14% want all classroom courses. Unless you’re appealing to that 30% of the graduate market which is traditional. Okay. Remember that, some of you are that in this audience.
Trends – Preferred Course Length
Next. You can’t go more than eight or nine, I’d say seven to eight weeks, okay. So seven day weeks okay, eight week programs, two eight week blocks a semester, anything longer, has zero, very, very little appeal. So eight weeks is the way to go.
Trends – Importance of Support Services
What do they like for support services? Well you know the library sources is a giveaway. But how about text support? How about researchers systems? How about fact fully advising and they want it virtual. They don’t like to come to campus for it, they like virtual advising. And here’s one that’s come up lately in our Regional Market Studies and that's career planning and placement, because what Bob said earlier; the job market is good, they’re looking to change jobs, they’re looking to advance. So this is the great come on when you’re working on marketing messages to area prospects and that is, we help you find careers, change careers and advance in your career.
Trends – How do they Pay?
Moving on. How do they pay for it? It’s their own money. They either use their own personally family fund or they take out loans which is their own money. So they’re really savvy on what they’re spending on and since it’s their own resources, they want to get back a good return on that investment.
Trends – Most Important Factors in Enrolment
What do they look for as a as a feature in colleges in which they would like to enrol and you know, I know this is, oh yeah okay. It's always cost tuition in fees. Well it is, but it has grown in importance and look at that previous chart. It’s their own money, its loans or their personal savings, or their family’s whatsoever. So cost is very important and if you’re a private institution and I have not met any institutions that lower their prices, you got to give them back something to counter higher costs. Some colleges are beginning to lower their costs cos they know how important this variable is with the post traditional graduate student.
Of course reputation comes next. Accreditation. They're still conscious that when they sit there across from the employer, they have a credential from an institution that has an accredited program, and look again; the variability of online programs which means they’re looking for faster ways to complete.
Trends – Marketing Channels
Top marketing channels. Well we said this earlier, Bob. All these schools you’ve been listing have lots of commercials on television. So whether those commercials lead them to those institutions or whether the branding of online education helps any institution, I kind of think that when you are regional, like many of the institutions in our program today, watching, listening to us. When you’re regional, lots of you are going to say we can’t afford television, but you get something that the Southern New Hampshire’s and the others don’t have and that is you have proximity. When 70% of the population studies within 100 miles, you’ve got something that is probably far more valuable.
Trends – Mobile Presence Matters for Search
Moving on. Mobile friendly. We asked these students, these post-traditional graduate students. When you’re doing your search for colleges, do you use your mobile devices? And almost 22% said yeah, almost all 11%. So you’ve got to be mobile friendly in the way you present your institution on websites and elsewhere, because they’re using their mobile devices and I'm not sure I have the chart here, but they also want to use their mobile for curriculum. So that’s and important factor when you think of the ease and travel. Okay.
Trends – How many Schools?
How many schools do they apply, consider or enquire at. Okay. They, number, one institution. 21% consider one institution and 35% consider two institutions and 44% consider three or more. So if you have an, you got to say, wow we better be quick on our response because if that one person has only us in mind and we're not there, they may go to number two. And of those who had one institution in mind, 40% applied to that institution.
This gets back to your enrolment funnel and how quick you are to address the inquirers questions and how quick you are to get them into the application stage and convert them to enrolment. They don’t have many institutions in mind and if you’re not there right away they’re going to select number two.
Trends – Enrolment in 1st Institution to Offer Acceptance
Moving on. We could impose traditions as enrolment in first institution to offer acceptance. How’s this? 84% enrolled in the first institution to offer the acceptance. What does that mean to you and your recruiters? Now when you get a call 10 minutes ago it had to be answered five minutes ago, right?
And I know that the public institutions and I know the private institutions and I know how hard it is to be on that fast timeline, but look at your fore-profit competitors. It’s 30 seconds, 45 seconds, a minute and a half. So the enrolment funnel recruiter is extremely important, because 84%, although many of them are already considering one institution but we had two and three as well. Many of them will enroll in the institution that gets back to them fastest. Very important.
Bob Atkins: Carol, this says that not only your admissions [42:28], but the entire admissions decision making process has to be fast as well, right?
Carol Aslanian: Right.
Yes. I remember we did a project just in the last week, for an institution in Louisiana, and when we looked at the graduate applications, the recruiting team, the admissions team, could not do it for the online programs and they had to go to the graduate Dean and the graduate professors. It took six to eight to two months to return an acceptance at the graduate level. That just killed their market appeal. So those things need to be looked at. You have to be quick. You have to be responsive and the other thing they want; they want to know if they’re getting any financial assistance. This isn’t primarily for under-graduates probably and they want to know about their acceptance as soon as they can. Don’t delay it because you know they could go elsewhere.
So I think that’s the end of our discussion. We’ve have lots more in those reports. I hope you have a chance to look them over and call me anytime. And I’m going to turn it back over to Bob for closing remarks or maybe we have time for questions Bob. I don't know.
Key Demand Trends and Observations
Bob Atkins: Let me give a few thoughts and then we'll open the floor for questions. Maybe you have some.
Carol Aslanian: Okay.
Bob Atkins: First. What’s going on out there? The decline seems to be flowing down. Googles down with three %. Our increase, thank God, are finally flat not down. And within that, there is clearly a declining interest in pure on ground and rising demand for online.
Carol Aslanian: Definitely.
Bob Atkins: And yeah. As Carol pointed out that online is not pure online. That could be a hybrid program as well.
Carol Aslanian: Absolutely.
Bob Atkins: Conversion rates and conversions are now starting to drop. So that’s not an encouraging sign, you’re going to have to pay for that inquiry and then the number of them that will come through is going to be lower than it has been. Not by a lot but not a great trend.
Carol Aslanian: It may be that the process is too lengthy Bob. As you can see, how they're losing out to those institutions and many of the fore profits that will turn around acceptances very, very quickly.
Bob Atkins: And it’s getting more expensive to play. So you’ve got a flattish demand, a small decline in conversions and a more expensive inquiry. So it’s a, look it’s not an easy environment out there, I mean to that attract students, and then Carol, you know as you pointed out, the non-traditional graduate segment is very unique. These are employed, married folks, raising kids. They prefer a local online option as you pointed out that gives all the regional players a foot in the door here even --
Carol Aslanian: Yeah. It’s a nice. We have a lot of small privates watching us and this gives them a great chance to, you know, to get that into that market place there and when you spend your marketing dollars. Unless you have sort of a niche product or we would call boutique topics that are. We did a study once at the University of Vermont with sustainability. Well there, we said don’t stay within 100 miles. You’ve got to go regionally or nationwide because you have a unique product that can sell, you know, in a larger market place. But when you have your Psychologies and your MBA's and your Criminal Justice, that’s a huge local market and it’s hard to compete on a national basis.
Bob Atkins: And in? This is a different world that many of us have been accustomed to. In order to win here you need better data. So you know what programs and markets and student segments to invest in. Second part of this is in a flat market, if you want to grow or even stay the same, you’ve got to be able to take market share. So the quality of your marketing and admissions work, the differentiations of your programs become absolutely vital. Because otherwise, it’s a falling tide and you’ve got to kind of find a way to offset that in the way that you go to market.
Mark Keleher: Hope you’ll join us again next month when we'll be back to talk about trends and thank you very much, Carol, for joining us this month. We really appreciate it.
Carol Aslanian: Wow. It was a pleasure, thank you.
Bob Atkins: Yeah, and we’ll be back next August 23rd at 2 PM. Please sign up and join us.
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